For some reason I always think of two foods when I think of my paternal Grandma, and both of them had to do with preserving. The first one is pickles. For holidays, Grandma always puts out a dish of them along with tiny cornichons, and as a kid I remember going to a local community garden with her to pick the cucumbers she'd use for that year's batches. I don't believe she canned either her dills or her bread and butters, but those dill pickles were incredible - sour, spicy and definitely laden with garlic and dill. However, I detest sweet pickles - to me, they seem like something that evolved because a chef mistook sugar for salt and didn't want to toss the batch. You can claim that they have their place (though I'm hard pressed to think of where that is) but I'll take a pass. Give me my full sour Kosher dills and I'm good, thanks.
The other thing Grandma reminds me of, and the whole purpose of this post, was crab apple jelly. I don't know if she actually made it herself, but she always seemed to have it around the house. It was there that I had my first taste of it (on a Triscuit, likely with some Havarti or Cheddar) and fell in love. There is nothing better to put on a platter of "plain" crackers and mild to medium cheeses than a tangy crab apple jelly, along with a little bit of hot pepper jelly and some fig jam.
Crab apples also remind me a lot of my home town of Ajax. A lot of the streets there, especially the older ones, are lined with crab apple trees, and the city never seems to either spray them with pesticides or prune them. They also don't do anything with the fruit they bear every year - the relatively small trees always overburdened with apples by the end of the summer, which just falls off and rots, leading to an oh-so-wonderful aroma by mid October (apparently, they don't clean up the fallen fruit either). This year, I didn't want to see it all go to waste yet again, so on my way home from a gym class a few weeks back I pulled over onto a side street and filled one of my shopping bags with ripe, tiny apples. I had a recipe for jelly from The Old Farmer's Almanac Garden-Fresh Cookbook and used that - with great success. I wound up with a crystal clear, bright pink-red jelly that was perfectly set and neither too sweet or tart. I did opt to concentrate the juice after straining it, which really brought out the flavour of the fruit. If you're looking for a foolproof "first jam / jelly" to make, this is definitely one to look at!
Crab Apple Jelly
Makes 7 cups
6 1/2 lbs crab apples, chopped (do not peel or core)
10 cups water
5 cups sugar
- In large pot, bring the crab apples and water to a boil.
- Reduce heat, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until very soft - about 30 minutes.
- Crush roughly with a potato masher.
- Pour into a cheesecloth-lined strainer set over a large bowl and let drain 6-8 hours in the fridge.
- Pour juice into a clean pot and boil until reduced to about 5 cups.
- Add sugar and return to a boil.
- Cook, stirring often and skimming off foam, for 18-20 minutes - until jelly gels on a cold plate.
- Ladle into jars and process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes (1/2 pints or pints)
Total Fat: 0.0 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 2.2 mg
Total Carbs: 20.4 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.0 g
Protein: 0.0 g
Submitted to September's Food of the Month Club where we're cooking with apples!